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Abstract: This case examines US Air Force attitudes toward the development and procurement of airplanes that fly without pilots, otherwise known as remotely piloted vehicles or RPVs. Specifically, the case describes the Pave Tiger and Seek Spinner RPVs, the latest in a 20-year history of air force unmanned vehicle development efforts. With the exception of a modified "target drone" used primarily for reconnaissance during the Vietnam War, none of these development programs was carried forward into production. In explaining the decision not to build an RPV, some Air Force officers contend that the service's tradition of manned flight constitutes a formidable cultural barrier against unmanned planes. Others argue that the necessary technology has yet to be perfected. In the story of Pave Tiger and Seek Spinner, both the technical and cultural forces related to RPVs appeared to play themselves out.
Learning Objective: The case may be used in the classroom to illustrate how institutional loyalties and identities may subtly shape the decision-making process.